Arejuvenated Cougar team faced and defeated Clarksburg’s Coyotes at QO to open the New Year. The final score will go in the books as 45-40. The Clarksburg scorer made an error but convinced the QO official scorer that she was wrong; QO lost a point because she made an erasure to try to correct a non-mistake.
Whatever the final margin, this was a classic Cougar defensive effort. They held the Coyotes scoreless in the second quarter. It was also a return to a disciplined offense that the Cougars did not show in their last several games. Senior Andre Gaines led QO with 19 and led rebounders with 13, and the team’s shooting percentage was .425 — the highest of the year.
“We worked on moving the ball around, getting the defense moving,” said Gaines. “That came from Coach Paul Foringer. He told us to be more patient.”
“That second quarter was incredibly good,” said Foringer. So was the rebounding. QO out-grabbed the Coyotes 32-12.
Led by senior Ben Kelly, the Cougars beat the Poolesville Falcons by a score of 66-46. Kelly had a standout performance, making six from beyond the arc and scoring a total of 24 points. “This game was no different for me; I just played well,” he said.
Kelly had support from the rest of his team, especially sophomore Eric Hoadley. Hoadley made three 3s, one of them in the last two seconds of the first quarter.
Foringer said, “I thought we played really, really well defensively, and on offense I thought we did some really good team moves and some really good passing. I haven’t seen those kinds of passes.”
The Cougars controlled the ball much better than usual, only turning the ball over 10 times, and they took advantage of the 21 Falcon turnovers. Gaines also provided another double-digit game for the Cougars with 11 points, all in the first half. After halftime, the Cougars scoring slowed down, producing only 26 points after 40 points in the first half.
Against Damascus, the boys came away with a close 61-58 win. After leading by eight at the half, the Cougars had a drop-off but emerged with the hard-fought win. Kelly had another outstanding game, leading all scorers with 21 including two 3s, while Gaines came through for 14.
The game turned on the final play. After Damascus tied it, QO had an inbounds play that almost escaped. Gaines came up with the loose ball and made a blind pass to where he knew Kelly had to be. Kelly drove, sunk the layup and converted the foul shot for the final margin.
Led by Andre Gaines’ 22 points and 13 rebounds, the Cougars throttled the Watkins Mill Wolverines 50-35. Gaines’ greatest change was to hit free throws — six for eight after a miserable start to the season from the line. He admitted he’s worked on it a lot. “Coach Jordan [shooting coach] has worked a lot, both as a team and individually. He told me to use my wrist more,” he said.
Foringer was delighted with the defense. “I don’t like to play man-to-man against that team because they’re so fast. If we can play man against them, we can play anybody.”
Myck Miller had 10, Kelly six, but the big difference was on the boards — QO dominated, 30-23, and created 23 turnovers. Defense again.
Defense Make a Comeback
For years the hallmark of Cougar boy’s basketball was a harassing press. They won a lot of games on defense alone. For most of the start of the current season, defense was missing.
While Coach Foringer expected a more physical team, the lack of defense worried him. “We might turn into one of those 51-48 kinds of teams. We’re just not getting it done.”
It was particularly distressing when the Cougars lost three games at Linganore in the holiday tournament, giving up 79 points to Frederick. After the holidays, something started to click. After giving up an average of 67 points per game at Linganore, they gave up 50, 46 and 48 points to Clarksburg, Poolesville and Damascus and tightened up even further against Watkins Mill, yielding only 35, for an average yield of 45 points.
Most pleasing to Foringer was the fact that he could go deeper into his bench and still get good defensive efforts as Joey Fierstein, Seth Greenspan and Joey Portney began to play key roles on defense. The result was a win streak of four games going into semester break.
Defense, as Foringer likes to say, makes it look like Cougar basketball again.